Farmersville High's Pedro Berber scored a Central Section-leading and school-record 50 goals -- more than all but one other boys soccer player in the state among those who kept stats on maxpreps.com.
Yet when it came time to decide the East Sierra League’s MVP, the award went to teammate Johnny Cervantes in a tough call among a dynamic duo who lifted the section’s premier small-schools program of the past decade to new heights.
"I think I was blessed with the two best players in the Valley," coach Michael Jordan said. "Pedro was incredible, and Johnny was a man playing among boys.
"(Berber) is electric with his left foot. Teams knew he was going to shoot with his left and still couldn't stop him. And Johnny's just a stud all the way around. Everyone we played knew of him before the game even started, and they all marked him. He's legit."
With Berber averaging a little more than two goals per game and Cervantes dominating play in the midfield, the Aztecs captured their second consecutive league title and section Division VI crown while advancing to the CIF Southern California Regional final in D-III for the first time to cap a 24-3-2 season. That gives Farmersville 11 league and five section championships in the past 15 years.
Berber and Cervantes -- The Bee's Co-Boys Soccer Players of the Year -- are close friends off the field and big fans of each other's game on it.
"To see him succeed like he did this year was really good," Cervantes said. "It made me happy as a player that we were doing well, and I was happy for him as a friend for what he was doing. He's a heck of a player."
As good as Berber was, he was the first to admit that the Aztecs went as far as Cervantes, who provided 11 goals and 14 assists, carried them.
"Johnny was a big part of our success. He helped us a lot. He was the head of our team," Berber said. "He always knew what runs I would make or where I'd be, and put the ball right where I was at. He gave me a lot of opportunities with his passing. It was wonderful playing with him."
Cervantes said he was driven to succeed after spending the summer thinking about what-ifs following a 1-0 loss to Sun Valley in last season's SoCal Regional semifinals, when the Aztecs outshot the Wildcats 13-4 and controlled roughly 60% to 70% of the possessions, according to Jordan.
"Last year being so close and letting it slip away hurt a lot," said Cervantes, who is leaning toward playing at Fresno Pacific next season and for the Fresno Fuego this summer. "It was always on my mind the whole summer. I'd always bring it up to the guys, 'remember what happened last year.' Our goal was going back to back and taking one more chance at state."
There were some in the Tulare County community of 10,740, in particular a couple of vocal former players, who didn't believe the Aztecs were capable of winning a second straight section title, let alone reach the SoCal final, where they fell 2-0 to St. Margaret's-San Juan Capistrano.
Berber didn't let that keep him from scoring in all but five of Farmersville's 29 games.
"All the doubters gave us motivation, and there were a lot of them," Berber said. "We proved them wrong. We put our hearts into the game. Every player gave it all they had."
Co-Players of the Year: Pedro Berber and Johnny Cervantes
** School: Farmersville
** Grade/position: Berber, junior/forward; Cervantes, senior/midfielder
** The résumés: Berber was the Central Section's leading scorer with 50 goals, along with seven assists, while being named first-team All-East Sierra League -- which gave MVP honors to Cervantes (11 goals, 14 assists). They were driving forces for 24-3-2 Aztecs team that won second straight league and Division VI titles while reaching the CIF Southern California Regional D-III final.
** He said it: "What makes these two the most successful is their love and passion for the game. If you see them at school, they are talking about the game they saw last night or the one that is coming on tonight. They are constantly talking soccer. They live for the game." -- Aztecs coach Michael Jordan.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, firstname.lastname@example.org or @NickG_FB on Twitter.